On Saturday evening, as I listened to a message by Eric Samuel Timm, a story I had known since my childhood suddenly took on a whole new perspective. The story he told was the story of Zacchaeus which is recorded in the nineteenth chapter of Luke.
In the past I had always looked at this story from Zacchaeus' point of view. He had heard about Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus. He was unable to see Jesus due to the crowd and the fact that he was shorter than those around him. Being a resourceful as well as a determined man, he climbed a nearby tree. As Jesus passes by, he looks up into the tree, sees Zacchaeus and tells him to come down because he must be a guest in his home that day. Zacchaeus climbs down and takes Jesus home with him much to the disapproval of the crowd. While they were grumbling, Zacchaeus tells Jesus that he will give away half of all he has to the poor and return four times as much as what he had wrongfully took from anyone he had collected taxes from. It is a wonderful story about how a life can be radically changed when someone encounters Jesus but is that all there is to it?
Let's take a look at it from another viewpoint. Pretend you are walking right next to Jesus. You suddenly realize he is not looking at you nor anyone else in the crowd around him. He is look up and off to the side as if he is searching for something. You are puzzled. Why is Jesus look up and off into the distance like that? What is he looking for?
Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus, the man that nobody wanted to see. People avoided him like the plague. If you don't believe me, how many of you are uh... fond of "The Tax Man"? Now I must admit, my husband and I had a nice visit the other evening with the man who has prepared our taxes for over 15 years. He is a nice man who tries to make things for us as painless as possible and his fee is actually quite reasonable. However, I am very grim-faced every time I write a check to the IRS or the MN Dept. of Revenue and I definitely do not want to see or hear from them unless it is to tell me an error has been made in my favor! In my world, a crooked tax collector would be arrested, tried if found guilty would be sentenced. In Jesus' world, the Roman government suddenly became blind and hard of hearing when it came to tax fraud. In other words, as long as they got their fair share, they didn't care.
No one wanted to see Zacchaeus, but Jesus did. Jesus didn't look for Zacchaeus in the crowd beside him. He did not look for Zacchaeus along the side of the road. He knew he would not be there. He looked up into the tree because he knew that was where Zacchaeus would be.
Turn your eyes from the people right at your elbow and look up into the "trees". Do you see them up there peeping down at you? These are the people that really do want to see Jesus but for one reason or another, they are not fighting their way through the crowd, they are up in a tree hoping to at the very least get a glimpse of him.
Are we looking where Jesus is looking? If we follow Jesus, if we desire to be like him, then we must turn our eyes and see what he sees. Look up and around you! Do you see them? Do you see the people in the trees, peering through the leaves? If you don't, ask God to reveal them to you and then do as Jesus did. Don't wait for them. Go to them and bring them down.